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Thursday, Sept 19, 2002

Democrats attack space

A lively little site,, which bills itself as The aggressive progressives, takes time out from its usual Bush-bashing to take on the non-military uses of space.

One wonders, since they're opposed to the non-military (in other words, commercial) uses of space, if they must necessarily support the military ones.

The subject of intense scrutiny from these progressives (for the meaning of "progressive", see here, here here, and especially here) is TransOrbital, a company which has just won approval to explore and land on the Moon. (I leave it to others to debate why somebody needs government approval to go to the Moon.)

Their first launch is scheduled for June 2003. It will be a lunar orbiter, to take photographs and make maps of the Moon's surface. After that, it will land on the Moon. (I suspect it will be a very hard landing.)

Part of Transorbital's mission statement says:

We want to do for the Moon what Jacques Cousteau did for marine exploration, to go, to see, sell the images as content and repeat it again and again. In the process, we hope to have some fun as well as helping to open up a new world for humankind.
I don't remember anyone getting upset and claiming that "we're giving the oceans away to France" when Costeau was exploring, mapping, and researching.

What claims

[Bush] has turned the moon over to a private, for-profit corporation called TransOrbital that has a far-reaching, frigthening agenda for the corporate domination of space.
They don't say what they think the "frigthening agenda" might be. Easier to shovel innuendo than to risk wasting facts that might be challenged. And we note the usual socialist dread of anything resembling "profit".
Bush simply acted as if the moon were his to give away.
Most of us missed the part about the deed to the Moon being handed over to TransOrbital. Costeau doesn't have the deed to the oceans, either.
The TransOrbital venture could be disastrous for the globe - no scientist today could predict yet how adding mass to the moon via human infrastructure or removing mass, via mining, will impact the delicate gravitational interplay between Earth and its only satellite.
That's the trouble with scientists - ask them a question and they give you a truthful answer. That's assuming, of course, that actually bothered to ask a scientist about that. A reputable scientist will only answer with what he knows is fact - because he's done the experiment - or what he can infer from available data. I suspect that any reputable scientist - and I mean here, astrophysicist, that being the area of expertise - would have to conclude that the amount of material that we could either carry away or add, would be negligible compared to the mass of the Moon - approximately 0.07349*1024 kg, equivalent to 8.08*1019 tons. These people have evidently been watching the recent Time Machine movie, in which the Moon disintegrates because we've been building resort colonies on it. Consider also that it still costs about $6,000 to move one pound of material to the International Space Station.

Over time - millions of years - considerable mass has already been added to the Moon - and to the Earth as well. Every one of those craters you see up there was caused by a meteor crashing at high speed onto the Moon's surface. The largest crater is about 200 km (about 125 miles) across. I leave it to you to consider what a 125-mile wide meteor, travelling at thousands of miles per second, might do to the Moon's surface, or to its orbit. It would certainly have been a grand sight, from the Earth. But the "delicate gravitational interplay" they worry about is just another charming fiction they've dreamed up. charges blindly on, heedless of fact:

Check out this home page: - notice the ad at the top of the page, where the company brags that it will make it possible to display commercial messages on the surface of the moon.
Since they haven't figured out yet how to make inline links, here's TransOrbital, once again.

Now let's try to find the part about "displaying commercial messages on the surface of the moon". Makes you think of giant flashing lights, perhaps spelling out

Preparation H

(If you're in MSIE you're missing the delightful blinking effect.)

Here's what TransOrbital really says:

A specially hardened time capsule in TrailBlazer containing messages and memorabilia will remain on the Moon's surface as a permanent message to the future. Join us by sending your thoughts, dreams, and images to the Moon.
Back to
Now check this site out for the Artemis Society - the group that is behind TransOrbital. It reminds us of those rghtwing front sites that lead to multiple front sites and nothing is what it seems. You'll notice that their web host calls itself the "Illuminati" and is based in Texas.
More innuendo. Since they didn't give the Artemis Society link, there it is.

First, they get the web host wrong: Artemis says

Illuminati Online provided web hosting services and electronic mail hosts for the Society for several years. The Society has since moved on to a much larger, faster server with multiple T3 connections one step off two Internet backbone providers, but we fondly remember and appreciate the excellent support and extensive resources that IO provided while we resided on their servers.
They even get the Artemis/TransOrbital connection wrong - they have it backwards. From the TransOrbital site:
A group dedicated to constructing the first commercial lunar base, and supporting commercial space work. TransOrbital's roots began here and we are a proud supporter of The Artemis Project.
As for the name, Illuminati, that comes from the famous role-playing game developed about 1981 by Steve Jackson. The owner of the ISP and Steve Jackson are brothers.

So, what does this "rghtwing front site", Artemis, tell us?

For one thing, the founder is Gregory Bennett. A reasonably thorough Google search fails to turn up any sinister right-wing connections. Or left, for that matter. He's a busy man. He's a VP at Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas company specializing in the commercial development of space travel. He also owns Budget Suites of America. He's a science-fiction writer. And he's been in the aerospace industry for about 30 years.

Artemis is connected with The Moon Society. Once again, no right-wing connections. These people just want to put Man back on the Moon. We've been away now for about 30 years. It's time we went back.

I haven't read all of the rest of What I have read makes my head hurt. Their writing is not that good. It reminds me of a first-year journalism course. They rely more on character assassination and innuendo than on logical argument. Since they're so wrong about TransOrbital, I can only conclude that the rest of their site is a farrago of jejune babblement.

These ill-informed luddites really ought to take a look at China's space program. There's no doubt that the Chinese are going there, and that their aims are primarily military - see here and here.

posted by Mike 15:38